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Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

WHilAM  VON  ECOMBOIJXr.                   313
through the entire Spanish peninsula. The family
left Paris in July or August, 1799, and repaired to
the south of France. From the shores of the Garonne,
whose fertility Humholdt admired., they reached the
northern point of the Pyrenees. We do not know
how long the travellers remained here ; they crossed
over to Spain at St. Jean de Luz3 in Bidassoa. From
Bidassoa William von Humboldt and his caravan
came to Biscay. Biscay and the Basque nations made
the most favourable impression upon him, and excited
a lasting interest. This nation—melted down to a
small handful, while it was once spread over nearly
the whole of the peninsula, and whose language, like,
probably, no other in Europe, has remained almost
unchanged from the earliest periods—had for him a
great attraction, and was a desirable means for attain-
ing to a more profound knowledge of the original
inhabitants of Spain, The language of the Basque
nations charmed him by its strange construction ; the
people, by their honesty and fidelity, by their parti-
ality for their valleys, and their jealous love of their
peculiar liberties and laws. The Spanish Basques^
especially, excited his interest. If the French have
more French sprightliness, the Spanish have the
Spanish seriousness, though not the sternness of the
Castilian, with whose indolence the industry of the
Basques, and their good-natured cheerfulness, form a
most agreeable contrast.
Humboldt entered the Biscayan soil near the boun-
dary fortress of Fuenterrabia, on that portion which
bears the name of Guipuzcoa. It was early in autumn
when he reached these lovely mountain districts and
valleys. The family journeyed across Tolosa to Vifc-
toria, the capital of the district Alara. Here, as in.
all towns, the paintings in the churches and private
galleries occupied his attention greatly. In Yittoiia^
especially, he praises a* Magdalen by Titian, in the
house of a Marquess de Alameda. The sketches
which Humboldt has published of this journey eon-
dude with bis entrance on Oastilian spiL